This is just to give everyone out there some information about doing a fish-in cycling vs fishless cycling. There seems to be a lot of confusion about the proper way (and yes there is a proper way) to do it. Some people will disagree with me, and that's fine, but I have done fish-in cycling with 100% success rate on both saltwater and freshwater tanks. There are pros and cons to both and I will list what I think are pros and cons for each.
This is just information on tank cycling. Patience is key to a long term successful saltwater system (you are recreating the ocean after all
Pro: You get to add fish in almost immediately.
Con: A little more expensive at first
Must Must Must keep up with your WCs and check levels very closely
Filter advice: I try and get filtration that is double my tank size. Example: Get a 40gal filter for a 20gal tank.
How to do it:
1. Setup your tank as normal adding live rock and live sand (live sand is optional but I usually get a 10 to 20lb bag and mix with dead sand to create my sand bed). Mix or buy your saltwater and add to tank. (side note: If mixing your saltwater you will want to make sure you are getting close to the same levels every time you make it, ph, salinity, etc. This is very important and will insure success. Buying it has an advantage here as your LFS
will almost always have the same levels every time, but mixing it yourself is cheaper)
2. I do this step, and have had great results, but it is optional. I use Bio Spira (an Instant Ocean product) when first setting up.
3. Wait 24 hours after adding Bio Spira to let the tank water go through the filter a few times.
4. Now add your fish. ONLY ADD 1 FISH for smaller systems. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Get a hardy fish as well, a lot of people use Damsels and clownfish. If you have a bigger system (75 gal
or larger) you could probably get away with 2 but I don't like to chance it.
5. Now for the most important part. WATER CHANGES, WATER CHANGES, WATER CHANGES
. Did I say that enough times? WATER CHANGES
. THIS IS KEY!!
You need to do AT LEAST a 25% water change BI WEEKLY. On smaller systems (30g or less) 50% would be even better. But at least a 25% water change.
6. Monitor your levels very closely. Daily until the cycle is done. The most important levels you are looking for while cycling is ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. With your water changes, your should be able to keep your ammonia levels low and when done cycling maybe 0. If you get a spike, and with using bio spira I have not had it spike high, an emergency water change may be needed in addition to the bi weekly changes, but I have found the bi weekly changes will keep your levels in check 99% of the time.
That's it. Be responsible, and on top of it and you can do it successfully with no harm to the fish I will add. And as normal practice, after the cycle has completed. 1 to 2 fish added slowly at a time ( every 2 to 4 weeks) will also ensure success.
Pros: Cheaper (none to not as often water changes)
Easier as you really just wait and test parameters until you read 0,0,0.
Cons: Have to wait before adding first fish.
1. Setup tank as normal (Live rock, live sand, saltwater, etc)
2. Will need to add ammonia to start cycle. This can be done by either dosing ammonia into water, or adding some fish food, or a raw shrimp into the tank to start your cycle.
3. Monitor closely and when levels reach Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, and Nitrate 0, for a few days consistently, you are ready to add fish.
Hope this helps some of you out there.